I believe in co-opting the holidays of the oppressor. I’m about celebrating resistance and the people we resist alongside. Cookouts are great and so is the company of my loved ones. We deserve joy in our lives, but the themes we indulge matter, because they are part of a larger culture.
On this day, I would like to lovingly remind my friends, who hold beliefs similar to my own, that indulging in patriotism, to any extent, amounts to drinking poison, or unleashing poison in the direction of another, or both. When you consume the mythology of American greatness, in any quantity, you are romanticizing slavery and genocide in the same way that “Gone with the Wind” erased bondage, by wrapping it up in a romance novel.
This poison has kept Americans stagnant for many years. It justifies greed, theft, and nearly every violation of human rights that we claim to oppose in the world. It is a cult of death, and to renounce your membership is a step toward freedom. The pursuit of freedom, as a physical reality, ultimately requires us to envision freedom, which in my experience, is a journey that can take decades. That is not to say that it cannot happen for some in an instant, but it must involve a separation of self from that which has silenced broad sections of our imaginations, and taught us to privilege the self above all else — a brilliant way to deprive people of collective power, while making them feel privileged to pursue individual aims.
My stumbling block was rage — which has value in its own right, but is often a hiding place for more difficult emotions. For others, it can be the abandonment of this society’s ideological comforts. But like any drug, used to numb the sensations of oppression, it chips away at our insides.
Many of our oppressions are enforced on pain of violence, but some are self-monitored. We are expected to internalize the supposed beliefs our “founding fathers,” who are no more your fathers than they are mine. They are fathers of deception, genocide, slavery and death. We must divorce ourselves from their idealization in order to develop our visions of freedom.
We can find community before we fully accomplish such aims, and community is a component of movements, as is action, but one cannot build a liberative framework while clinging to any idealization of a system that oppresses. Culture building is work we cannot contribute to, in a revolutionary manner, while the state still has our heartstrings within reach.
Cut those strings.
Tell the truth.
Tell people what they don’t want to hear about the history of slavery and genocide, and about the current incarnations of these crimes.
Tell people about the lies their history teachers told them, and the suffering erased by their favorite news sources.
Tell people that, any interaction with this system, in the pursuit of liberation, should involve taking power away from our oppressors, rather than affording them more.
Tell people that there is no honorable death in the service of this government. There is only death, which often occurs within the context of crimes designed by others.
It is tempting to allow those locked into a cycle of grief to idealize such “service,” but by doing so, we internalize the lies of the state, and perpetuate those crimes in a way that enables murder on a global scale, and the deaths of more Americans who believe in the lies of patriotism.
Fuck being a patriot. Tell the truth of this moment, and find the truth of a better one. That’s what celebrating independence should mean, not in the sense of things past, but in the hope of a better future — one where we all get free.